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Science and Technology

In the wake of a worker shortage, DHL is ramping up the use of robotics

DoraSorter-Sort to Gaylord 1.jpg
This is the DoraSorter which, in a matter of seconds, can pick up packages and figure out where they need to go. This is part of the company's $100 million commitment to increased robotics.

DHL, with a global hub at the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport, is spending $100 million on robotics to increase productivity and aid in a workforce shortage.

The logistics company emphasizes it is augmenting, not replacing workers.

“I see robots working side-by-side, because of the complexity of the tasks in most of the cases," says Klaus Dohrmann, VP of Innovations Europe. "For long-haul transportation, we see much more augmentation, supporting drivers and planners with technology like artificial intelligence; like virtual reality for drivers and so on.”

During a virtual and in-person presentation at its Chicago Innovation Center, DHL showed off its newest robot, the DoraSorter. She can sort 1,000 packages weighing up to 15 lbs. in one hour, an average of 3.6 seconds.

Dorabot U.S. Robotics engineering lead Jian Shi explains. “How the system works is they are manually introduced through the system and the system will scan the barcode and recognize the property of the package and identify the distribution and then the robot arm will pick it up and sort it in the right container,” he says.

DoraSorter -- Sort–to–Bag

The company says it partnered with the AI company Dorabot to test in Atlanta and had a near zero error rate. The DoraSorter has been deployed in Miami, Florida. There aren’t immediate plans for it to be at CVG.

DHL says it surveyed employees and while 58% said robots could be a threat to their jobs, 90% said technology has been helpful.

Dohrmann says the driving force in increasing robotics is threefold:

  • shifting demographics
  • technological advances
  • the pandemic